The Dome Reconstruction

The Dome Reconstruction

Start Date: August 8, 2017
Completion Date: January 3, 2018

At 180,000 square feet, The Dome is the largest sports complex of its kind. It is held down with pipes and cables plunging 40 feet into the ground, and is supported by pressurized air. Snow and wind sensors automatically increase or decrease pressure and temperature of The Dome, keeping it at 15 to 17 lbs of air pressure per square inch, creating essentially a hyperbaric chamber.

January 22, 2017, The Dome collapsed just before midnight under the weight of a heavy snow.  No one was hurt, but there was multiple questions following the collapse on what caused the collapse and what would happen to the facility.  Used by scores of Anchorage children and adults for everything from soccer leagues and running to early-season baseball and softball workouts. On any given day, more than a thousand people come and go from the facility. In the immediate months after collapse, management silence suggested that the facility would remain closed indefinitely.

We have worked previously with the Anchorage philanthropist who was spearheading the effort to get the dome re-inflated, when he called in late July 2017 to ask if we could help, we were a solid “yes”.   With a tight construction and tent panel production time-frame, it was likely that the Dome would never have re-opened if the work was not done in the fall 2017 season. The mix of bondholders, insurers, manufacturers, user groups and city inspectors made the project especially challenging.  Billed as the largest air-supported structure in the world, the indoor facility offers 4 acres of climate controlled lit space- a necessity for long, dark Alaskan winters.

The Dome is covered with a fabric made out of two layers of extra-thick white polyvinyl chloride tent material with 5 inches of insulation sandwiched between, all held in place by steel cables.  Two of the eight panels had to be replaced before re-inflation could occur.  Hundreds of pounds of insulation had to be removed and reinstalled.  Since it had been in a collapsed state for months, no one knew what we would find during re-inflation…..  The panels are also finicky and must be maneuvered by sheer man-power.  The manufacturer advised that the use of equipment would tear the remaining panels.

Prior to contract signing, we ordered the panels and tracked their progress through the Yeadon manufacturing facility.  Due to the mechanical connection of each panel, with bolts and metal spacers, bolt patterns and tolerances were especially important so that the new panels matched up perfectly with the existing structure- along all 350 ft of seams.  Once the panels were manufactured in Minnesota, they were trucked and steam shipped to Alaska.  Getting the dome up before heavy rain or snow events was ALWAYS on our mind.  Concurrently with panel fabrication, our Anchorage crews were busy, peeling back the layers, removing the old panels and inspecting for additional damage.  The Yeadon crew only had limited time in Anchorage, as Fall is their busy period, and we had to have everything prepped and ready so that we could inflate while they were in town.  Once inflated, we knew that additional panel repair was necessary and had to be completed by factory trained reps.

With the help of hundreds of volunteers, the facility reopened in January 2018. Improvements to the facility included brighter and more energy-efficient LED lighting, a new turf surface, and full-sized pickle ball courts.